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BAE's Jam Lab improves, perfects missile technology

Union Leader Correspondent

August 19. 2013 12:37AM
Three years ago, BAE Systems unveiled a $20 million facility, the Worrell/Weeks Aircrew Protection Center at 130 Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack, that tests and evaluates equipment used for defending helicopters against infrared-guided missiles and hostile fire. (COURTESY)

NASHUA — The Dr. John R. Kreick Infrared Jam and Simulation Lab at BAE Systems' Nashua facility is a force to be reckoned with — literally.

On display inside of the locked facility on Canal Street is a myriad of missiles designed in different parts of the world. Inside of glass cases, the 45-year-old lab has on display Russian missile systems such as the SA-14 and SA-16, which were used during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Also on display are Redeye, Stinger Basic and Sidewinder AIM-9 missiles, along with Russian missiles like the SA-7, SA-9 and SA-16, some of which can travel 1,500 mph into the atmosphere.

BAE Systems is of the top three world’s largest international defense companies, in close competition for the No. 1 spot with Lockheed and Boeing. It works closely with missiles and infrared guided air systems to develop countermeasure techniques.

“We learn how to break them,” said Paul Squires, a physicist and self-proclaimed rocket scientist who works at the Jam Lab. His job is to analyze missiles, understand how they operate and essentially find a way to defeat them.

BAE Systems has employees worldwide and in New Hampshire at facilities in Manchester, Merrimack, Nashua and Hudson. The Manchester site has 117 employees, while Merrimack has 711, Nashua has 2,853 and Hudson has 702 workers. It has 729 U.S. patents, 364 patents outside of the U.S. and 484 pending patents, according to the company. BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems has more than 10,000 employees, more than 20 locations and a revenue of nearly $4 billion.

Squires is passionate about his job, and admits he has a wish list of missiles, or new toys, that he would someday like to get his hands on. “We are limited in our numbers — always limited,” he said.

The Jam Lab obtains about one new missile system every year or every few years, according to Squires, who acknowledges he would like to see more hardware enter the lab more frequently.

“We work very closely with the missiles,” he said during a recent media tour of the facility.

Squires compared the Russian missile systems with those made in the other countries.

“The Russians have thrown a lot of innovation into their processes,” he said, adding some of their techniques have a certain “wow” factor. Others, he said, just make one wonder whether they are even feasible.

“There is capabilities. There are some concerns,” he said.

The Russian’s SA-7 is the most widely proliferated missile in the world, according to Squires, who said it is still being manufactured and modified across the world despite its age.

Experts at the Jam Lab and at BAE Systems are constantly conducting internal research and development that drives the jam technology to be smaller and lighter, said Squires, explaining every pound on a helicopter takes up precious fuel.

Up to 8,000 missile shots can be performed each day on one of six simulators at the Jam Lab, allowing for 48,000 daily missile shots to determine how specific missiles operate, whether the jamming technology was successful and how to improve and perfect it. Currently, there are 14 different missile systems being tested at the lab, Squires said.

Nearby at the Worrell/Weeks Aircrew Protection Center in Merrimack, about 150 BAE Systems employees are working on CIRCM, the company’s next generation integrated aircraft survivability and protection solution for the U.S. Army.

Meanwhile, a separate project is underway to develop a system for the U.S. Navy that will help search for mines in the surf zone. A prototype of the device, which will eventually be placed on UAVs, was expected to undergo its first demonstration last week at the indoor range.

That device, part of the Cobra System, is preparing for its first flight test in Hawaii this fall, according to BAE workers.

The motto at BAE Systems — We Protect Those Who Protect Us — is posted frequently throughout the facilities, reminding employees about their critical duties. Defense technology designed at BAE Systems is currently used on platforms such as military vehicles, soldier equipment, missiles, commercial fixed wing aircraft, ships and more.

The company is creating electronic combat solutions, HybriDrive solutions, communication solutions, intelligence surveillance solutions and survivability and targeting solutions for air, land and naval forces.

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